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Mass customization and personalization news
2005-11-08: Online retailing giant Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) has announced a programme which will allow customers to buy online access to individual pages or chapters of a book. This development is the first time that an online retailer has made sections of a book available to purchase.
The new 'Amazon Pages' programme will "un-bundle" the physical-world experience of buying and reading a book so that customers can simply and inexpensively purchase and read online just the pages they need. For example, an entrepreneur interested in marketing his or her business could purchase the relevant chapters from several best-selling business books, or a student carrying out research could purchase those pages from a reference text that have been referenced in course material.
Amazon Pages represents a significant step in the mass customization of publishing, as well as a further move towards the 'democratization of knowledge'. Pages is an example of mass customization because it gives control to the customer as to what knowledge they want to extract from a book. They no longer have to pay for the full content of the book in order to find the particular information they require.
The World Wide Web has sometimes been described as the 'democratizing of information', since all the information contained on public web pages is generally open to all (except where it is suppressed by despotic regimes). In most cases, the information is free or virtually free, so it is equally available to all, and not just those who can afford to pay for it. Amazon Pages is an important step towards democratizing printed knowledge. While it will not be free, the lower costs of buying online access to a chapter or page of a book will make the information contained in it more affordable, and therefore accessible by a larger number of people than before.
Pages builds on Amazon.com's Search Inside the Book technology, It allowed customers to find and discover books by searching the text inside them. The company is currently developing two new systems that will enable customers to purchase online access to any page, section, or chapter of a book, as well as the book in its entirety.
The technology for Search Inside the Book was originally launched two years ago. The program has grown substantially since then, and today, one out of two books sold in the U.S. by Amazon.com are in Amazon's Search Inside the Book program. Based on the success of the progam in the U.S., Amazon has recently launched Search Inside the Book in the U.K., Germany, France, Canada and Japan.
Amazon.com are currently marketing Pages to publishing companies (Publishers interested in participating in Amazon Pages or Amazon Upgrade can contact firstname.lastname@example.org). It may be the case that some publishers will be reluctant to participate, fearing revenue losses, but in the opinion of this website, the additional revenue from sales of chapters or pages should far outweigh any reductions in sales of entire books. One publishing company,Holtzbrinck Publishers, has thrown their hat in the Pages ring from the start. "It is important for the publishing community to explore new business models for digital delivery that compensate publishers and authors fairly. We look forward to working together with Amazon as they develop these innovative new programs to expand the market for digital content," said Holtzbrinck CEO John Sargent.
At the time of writing, Amazon Pages is not yet visible on the Amazon.com website. The company has not stated when it is likely to go live.
The related Amazon Upgrade programme will allow customers to "upgrade" their purchase of a physical book on Amazon.com to include complete online access. For example, a software developer who buys a Java programming book will not only get the physical book delivered to his or her home, but will also get 24x7 Web access to the complete interior text of the book. While Upgrade could not be labelled mass customization, it has useful advantages. It means that someone commuting or travelling need not carry texts with them, but instead be able to access it anywhere via the Web.
"Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade leverage Amazon's existing Search Inside the Book technology to give customers unusual flexibility in how they buy and read books," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. Bezos opened Amazon.com on the World Wide Web in July 1995. It is now a Fortune 500 company.